Dining With Denise Neil

Wichita Taco Fest was packed again this year, but people left much happier

A crowd of about 7,000 people filled the field at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium on Saturday for the Wichita Taco Fest.
A crowd of about 7,000 people filled the field at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium on Saturday for the Wichita Taco Fest. The Wichita Eagle

Wichita loves tacos. Especially $1 tacos.

Wichitans proved it on Saturday when they turned out en masse for the second go-round of the Wichita Taco Fest, an event that debuted last year to big crowds and big criticism.

But organizers FestiveICT made good on their promise to fix the problems that plagued their first year, including overcrowding and long lines at the entry gate, and on Saturday, local taco fans spent a sunny afternoon turning the field at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium into a giant fiesta.

An estimated 7,000 people turned out to sample tacos from 30 vendors who lined the perimeter of the field, passing out $1 versions of their restaurant favorites. In between bites, they sipped margaritas, played a cornhole game set up in the center of the field and listened to live music. Admission was $5, $10 the day of, and once in, people could get tacos for $1 and chips and salsa for $2.

The sun was intense, so many people gathered up their taco samples, then retreated to the shady stands at the baseball field. Others created impromptu picnics on the ground in the middle of the field.

The stadium was packed, but because it's so big, there was plenty of room to move. The lines were better. Eager taco eaters lined up early to get in for the first tacos, and they waited in a line when the event first opened. But those who came later in the day walked right in.

Lines for tacos also were long early, but the longest ones lasted about 15 minutes, and several booths had much shorter lines.

Organizers said they also were much happier with the event and were pleased to see that lines were moving and that people continued to stream in throughout the afternoon.

I was one of three judges who tasted all 30 tacos (burp) to choose the best. Our tasting was blind, so we didn't know whose tacos we were eating. It was a spicy blur, but the best taco winners (it was a tie) were Tacos Beto, a local taco catering business, and Hot-2-Trot Gourmet Hot Dogs, a food truck whose creative owner Adam Bussey made a tasty taco filling of finely diced and spiced hotdogs. We chose Chico's salsa as the winner in the chips-and-salsa contest.

I thought the event was fun, and I loved watching all of Wichita's favorite Mexican restaurant owners cooking their tacos in one place. People seemed happy, and the atmosphere was festive.

A percentage of the proceeds from Saturday will be donated to a Festive ICT scholarship fund.

Organizers said that if the stadium is available next year, they'd like to hold the event there again.

I'll be there.

Did you attend Wichita Taco Fest on Saturday? Let me know what your experience was.

(FILE VIDEO -- JANUARY 26, 2018) A group of three men ate at more than 40 restaurants to determine the best taco in town. They chronicled their adventures in a blog and on Facebook.

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